Ketogenic. Paleo. Vegan. Gluten-free. Intermittent fasting. If you are looking to lose weight or improve your nutrition, your options are endless. But are endless options really all that great?
Trendy diets are tough to follow and may carry risks for certain people. Moving away from “diets” and towards balanced nutrition is one key to reducing your risk for dementia and other chronic, degenerative conditions like cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. Today we will look at two plans – Under 6 Nutrition and The Balanced Plate – that are designed to help you become more aware of how to bring balance to your nutrition.
Under 6 Nutrition
The goal of the Under 6 nutrition plan is to eat “clean” by removing toxins from your diet. If you eat foods that are canned, frozen, or pre-prepared then you are introducing unnecessary toxins into your body. By preparing more meals at home using limited, whole-food ingredients you can reduce the toxic load that results from the typical Western diet.
Unless you are eating fresh, whole foods then the chances are you are regularly ingesting chemicals and food additives. One example is bisphenol A, also known as BPA. This is a building block of polycarbonate plastics that are used extensively for food and beverage storage. BPA is known as an “endocrine-disrupting chemical” that interferes with the way our hormones work. According to the Endocrine Society, EDCs have been linked to alternations in nervous system and immune system functions, cancer, metabolic issues including diabetes and obesity, and much more.
Food additives are used to keep food fresh or to enhance their color, flavor, or texture. Processed foods make up an estimated 75% of the Western diet, with the average person consuming a whopping 8 to 10 pounds of food additives every year. Commonly used food additives and preservatives can have deleterious side effects. One example is sodium nitrate, which is used to prevent botulism in lunch meats, hams, sausages, hot dogs, and bacon. But sodium nitrate can react with proteins or during cooking at high heat to form cancer-causing chemicals.
Eating “clean” and toxin-free means cooking all (or most) meals at home rather than relying on pre-prepared, frozen, or take-out meals. With the Under 6 nutrition plan, you cook meals at home using six ingredients or less. These six ingredients are whole foods that are not canned, jarred, frozen, or boxed. For example, use whole, fresh tomatoes rather than canned tomatoes. These six ingredients do not include “clean” seasonings like garlic, fresh herbs, or Himalayan salt.
The Balanced Plate
Diet is a main factor in the so-called Western diseases of breast cancer, prostate cancer, coronary heart disease, and colon cancer. The foods you eat can also cause chronic inflammation which can lead to inflammatory diseases such as atherosclerosis, dementia, arthritis, vasculitis, diabetes, and autoimmune disease. The bottom line: diet is a critical component of your overall wellness.
The Balanced Plate provides a good approach to moving towards balanced nutrition, especially if you are feeling overwhelmed with information on how to eat healthily.
The Balanced Plate concept is simple: fill one half of your plate with raw or lightly cooked green vegetables. Fill one-quarter of your plate with lean protein such as fish or white meat chicken. And fill the remaining quarter of your plate with low-glycemic carbohydrates like sweet potatoes, beans, or black rice. Add one heaping tablespoon of healthy fats like nuts or extra-virgin olive oil and voila! A balanced plate.
Balanced nutrition is about more than counting calories and weighing food. It is also about listening to your body. Some people may need larger or smaller portion sizes in each meal, but the idea is to keep the ratio or proportion consistent.
The Balanced Plate and Under 6 nutrition plans are a great place to begin a lifelong practice of balanced nutrition. Following both plans is great but remember that a little bit of improvement is always better than none. And as always, talk to your doctor before beginning any new exercise or nutrition program to make sure that it is right for you.